Statement at the launching ceremony of the Zimbabwe-European Business Information Centre (ZIM-EBIC)
Speech by the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre at the launching ceremony of the Zimbabwe-European Business Information Centre (ZIM-EBIC) on 1 August 2014, Harare, Zimbabwe
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Hon. Minister Bimha,
Ms. Pilime, CEO of Zimtrade,
Dear Ambassadors from the EU member countries,
It gives me a great pleasure to be here with you today to launch the Zimbawe- Europe Business Information Centre at ZIMTRADE.
This is an important component of the Trade and Private Sector Development Programme funded by the European Union. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Dell’Ariccia for the European Union’s contribution to Zimbabwe’s national trade policy through this programme.
The programme has three main areas of intervention:
- helping small and medium-sized enterprises to access markets and seize opportunities arising from the interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU);
- strengthening the capacities of trade support institutions to help the private sector; and
- fostering dialogue between the public and private sectors and reviewing the country’s competition law.
ITC focuses on building productive capacities in developing countries. We help SMEs move up the value chain, improve competitiveness and get to regional and international markets. In essence we help SMEs better use trade as a tool for growth and job creation and through that, as a powerful means to reduce poverty. SMEs, especially in Africa, are the incubators of growth for tomorrow. According to the African Development Bank, in Africa alone there are over 50 million MSMEs which employ close to 60% of the workforce. But there is a need to ensure that this potential is unlocked and that we collectively address both market and institutional failures which result in the high mortality rates of small businesses- especially within their first year.
Investing in SMEs is not only the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do. And not just from a strictly economic perspective, but also from a socio-economic angle as in Africa a large number of SMEs are women owned and provide job opportunities for the youth.
The Zimtrade “Women and Youth Business Report” of 2011 identified access to finance, limited business opportunities and lack of entrepreneurial skills as major barriers for Zimbabwe women entrepreneurs to entering the formal sector. And beyond these challenges, access to information is critical.
Providing accurate trade and market intelligence is in ITC’s DNA. We do this from a number of different angles:
One, through technical cooperation programmes such as the one we are launching today. ITC will build the capacity of Zimbabwean trade support institutions such as Zimtrade to access information, interface with this data and create opportunities to request specific market information that would be of direct use to traders in Zimbabwe.
A trade information portal will be also developed and will allow connections with other national bodies such as the Ministry of Trade, the Horticultural Promotion Council or the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council.
This tool will help the trade institutions help the SMEs in particular by providing intelligence to access EU markets.
In ITC we strongly believe in the power of trade support institutions as multipliers of our efforts for the business community at large. This is why Zimtrade is a natural partner and I want to thank Ms. Pilime and her staff for their solid relationship with ITC.
Second, we provide up-to-date free access to online tools mapping trade flows, market access, investment, trade competitiveness and voluntary private standards. These tools collectively help improve transparency in international trade and enable companies and trade support institutions to identify trade opportunities and compare market-access requirements.
Finally, ITC has a programme on non-tariff measures aimed at increasing transparency and helping countries and SMEs navigate them. As tariffs have gradually declined over the last decades, non-tariff measures have become the more visible face of obstacles to trade. They include quality and safety standards, prudential regulations, environmental standards and border red tape. Many of these measures are legitimately in place to protect consumers and increase quality standards. In these instances we need to help SMEs in developing countries have the knowledge and the tools to identify, address and meet these standards.
But often these non-tariff measures are plain impediments to trade. This is why the WTO Trade Facilitation is important to cut down the costs of trading by removing red tape and excessive bureaucracy. This is critical for increasing global trade but even more so for facilitating regional trade and intra-Africa trade. Just last week ITC launched a Trade Facilitation Programme to help developing countries better understand and implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. We have also opened an on-line ‘trade facilitation hotline’ where interested parties can contact us with any questions regarding the implementation of the Agreement.
Before I close let me say a few words about the “cotton-to-clothing industry” initiative, also funded by the European Union in Zimbabwe. Increasing the competitiveness of this crucial but challenged industry is where we hope to assist. There is a tremendous market opportunity if we build this programme effectively.
The design stage will be concluded with the launch of this home-grown strategy in September at the Bulawayo Clothing Indaba event. The next step will be implementing the strategy. As Churchill said “however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”!
I am pleased to confirm that important work has already begun around this. And let me stress that ITC is ready to assist the Ministry of Industry and Commerce as well as public and private sector stakeholders to create a sustainable and profitable market for cotton products across the entire cotton value chain.
I also wish to invite you to join the ITC at the World Export Development Forum that will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 15- 17 September 2014. This is the first time that we are hosting the ITCs flagship event in Africa. The focus will be on “talking business” – how to ensure that SMEs drive growth and jobs through trade – but also on “doing business” through B2B contacts. I hope to see many of you in Kigali.
Finally, allow me to say ‘farewell’ to Ambassador Dell’Ariccia who will be departing Zimbabwe shortly. I thank you for your commitment to this project and the trust you placed in ITC.
I hope we can be back to Zimbabwe soon to see the fruits of the seeds we are planting today.
Thank you for your attention.